Ravi Zacharias speaks at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, September 17, 2013.
FILE - Ravi Zacharias speaks at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, September 17, 2013.

U.S. evangelist Ravi Zacharias, who believed that those skeptical about religion need to be engaged in a healthy debate rather than scorned, has died of cancer at 74. 

His Atlanta-based international ministries said Zacharias rose to global prominence as what it calls a defender of the “intellectual credibility” of Christianity “helping the thinker believe and the believer think."  

Ministry president Michael Ramsden says Zacharias “saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered.” 

Zacharias was born in Chennai, India, and says he was an atheist until he was 17 and tried to commit suicide. A hospital worker brought him a Bible.  

He started his missionary work after he moved to Canada and later the United States.  

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he is “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist whose ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ impacted millions around the world. Ravi was a man of faith who could rightly handle the word of truth like few others in our time & he was my friend.”